Monday, September 20, 2004

What’s In a Name?

Florida is trying to replace offensive place names such as “Jap Rock,” “Jewfish Creek,” or “Cracker Swamp” with something more P.C.

Cities and counties have until Oct. 1 to comply with a new law requiring them to report places labeled with ethnic or religious slurs and suggest a new name. By 2005, officials will notify the board and the Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development so it can update maps and markers.

So far, the state’s list reads like a handbook of slurs and names many consider pejorative: Jap Rock, Negro Island, Jewfish Creek and Cracker Swamp. That some names are open to interpretation, however, has caused confusion. The well-intentioned legislation does not list which words could be considered offensive, nor does it penalize locales for refusing to change a name.

City and county officials throughout Florida are scrambling to make the deadline, reviewing maps, talking with historians and, at times, scratching their heads.

“I’ve heard about Hooker Highway in Belle Glade and Cracker Street,” said Todd Bonlarron, Palm Beach County’s executive director for legislative affairs. “It’s really subjective regarding the history. We need to figure out whether or not it was done in a derogatory manner.” [Sun-Sentinel]

Lotsa luck, guys. If it’s anything what the USGS went through a few years ago when they tried to clean up some of the more salty names for landmarks out west – like Squaw Valley – they’re going to have a fight on their hands. It’s not that people are insensitive, it’s just that it’s a fussy little thing that makes the whole politically correct movement seem just plain silly.

But while they’re at it, the Florida legislature re-named Florida’s Turnpike the “Ronald Reagan Turnpike.” Can we get them to change that?